Why is Egypt dirtier than some other countries? (Cairo)
This is a question that usually comes up when I take my friends from more developed parts of the world around. I have discussed this over the years and I have lived in the US for 10 years. Here are my thoughts.
Most of the public services in "economically struggling" nations tend to be low in number and quality. This is purely economical. In order to run a certain public operation, you need a certain amount of money. If that amount of money is not available (i.e. stolen, or directed to something else) then you simply will not have that service available. That applies to street cleaning, and trash handing and recycling, building public greenspaces..etc. Once trash builds up it continues to build up and it becomes worse and worse over time. The government does not intervene or intervenes slowly. Then it becomes the "public ride" economical issue. Everyone is waiting for the other to do it. Some exception may occur. For example on my street, one resident pays street cleaners to clean the street daily. But I am talking about the majority of cases. Take that into account with the poor economical portfolio of most citizens who struggle to make ends meet and barely have enough to live. For those, cleaning is not the highest priority on their list. My argument is that this is a universal issue in these economically struggling communities. For example, the same situation takes place in "ghetto" areas where economically struggling citizens live in more developed nations, even yards away from wealthy clean areas. Even though in most of these areas there is a spill-over of services from the nation as a whole. Another issue that usually comes up is that some small village in somewhere in the world is not economically well-off yet its clean. This is true and it does happen. I recently went to a very small village in Beheira and the villagers wer very poor yet the village was extremely clean. What you find is that there is a consensus among residents to do that and somehow there is a way to identify violators. Such a system can be put in place in small communities with some shared characteristics among residents. Yet it is hard to apply as a whole. It's true too that if small communities do that, the whole city will be clean. However, once you come to the application of such issues, it becomes very complicated. It's like "turn the other cheek" in christianity. It looks good, sounds good, could be applied in some instances but for a country or a person to live his or her life that way ; he or she wont last.
Individually, most people will want to live in a clean big place with lots of green and with nice green yards and clean neat rooms. I saw that myself growing up. When I was in college i was barely making enough money to live and my place was very messy and not that clean. I did not like it. But I barely had time to study/cook/clean/live and I had little money to invest in cleaning. So I was cleaning enough to get by. In order to understand how this works, I would like any non-Egyptian to try living in Egypt for 1K LE a month for several months. I would like to see you actually do it as an individual. Then I would like to see you do it as a family. Lots of Egyptian families live on that amount a month. some live even on less than that. When your feet are out of the water things look simple. Once you get in it's a different story.
After some time, and if you leave the system above running for a while, people tend to see it as normal and never bother to change it. This is psychologically tested and a lot of researchers studied this subject. This is one of the crimes of Mubarak, which I think is more hideous than kiling protesters. Mubarak has created an elite system that made every Egyptian live on the minimum so that they would not have time nor energy to ask for more. If you complained and if your complaint was mobilizing you were taken behind bars for a very long time. It was not until the social media revolution that people learned how to mobilize together.
Of course another question is: if every citizen cleaned in front of his/her house the whole street will be clean. Whoever asks that does not understand the basics of macroeconomics. Yes the sentence is true. However, the application is very difficult and very complicated and depends on a lot of variables. A sense of community needs to be in place. That system can be easily erased when members of the community or the community as a whole is economically struggling. People tend to blame each other and blame the system for their problems and stop caring. it is hard to understand that if you are economically stable because you haven't lived in that environment. But a study of such an environment over time says otherwise.
So why is Egypt struggling economically? Well, on paper Egypt is not struggling economically. I am not talking about the fake balance sheets the government creates to deceive people. But I am talking about a study of the potential of this land and its people. Any economic planner who studied Egypt will tell you that Egypt has the potential to be one of the top 10 economies in the world. However what is needed is a good "CEO." Once you have a good CEO and a good system in place, good investments will be made, the return will be higher, a fair system of equality will be implemented. all will lead to economic growth. South Korea is a good example of economic growth in a country with less resources than Egypt. So the potential is there, the people are there, what is missing is the system. And yes Egyptians have known this for ages. However, Mubarak and his powers were making tons of money and they needed to remain in that position. And the way to ascend in that system was through your loyalty to the "boss." as people got higher up, they started making big bucks, stopped caring about the lower people, and became as selfish as their predecessors. Some people have tried to tackle the system over the years, but they failed. and there are a lot of reasons why that happened.
If you want to tackle an even bigger issue, then it is nations oppressing nations. What happens between individuals can happen between nations. This has been the case all over history. "strong" nations tend to take advantage of "weak" nations. This happens by preventing them from advancing, stealing part of their resources, appointing people they like as rulers..etc. This can be clearly seen today. I was an intern for a few months at a task force for a leading US political institute and I saw how the whole issue at hand was "promoting" US "profits" from Middle East countries. If you can plan a way to maximize profits from Middle East countries then you were a hero. What mattered was how much money and what other political and economic gains you could bring. It does not matter if a dirty way is taken to reach there as long as it is not exposed. It didn't matter to those people one bit how an individual in those countries was living. They did not even want to know. So in order to provide a US citizen with a good living and an economic prosperity, the US government does not care if they crush half the world as long as it just does not show. Wikileaks was very important historically for this reason. It exposed those secret agendas the Governments were denying. The US and many other European government do not care if they crush human rights as long as it happens away from their lands. Omar Suleiman, the US Chief intelligent officer, for example, was notorious for unethical torture for the sake of western intelligent agendas. The war on Iraq is another example of such an issue. The US army killed almost 100k Iraqis with "smart" bombs acting on a wrong intelligent report. Yet nothing happened. George W Bush is still enjoying his Texas ranch, no one paid the price except Iraqis. Same thing is happening in Syria although this is a Russian/Chinese plot. Economic issues are even more staggering.
For the above and other reasons, I have explained to my American and other friends that for you to live comfortably at a certain standard, and for you to be paid a certain amount of money, someone else in the world is paying the price. That someone else could be the poor Egyptian you are seeing in a dirty area. His system has failed him, and your government has failed him. You might ignore this fact. In a democracy, this is not forgiven. Each citizen in a developed/democratic nation has a say in elections. By taking only your own selfish issues into accounts when you vote (taxes, money you will make..etc) and forgetting about atrocities committed by your government in order to bring you that prosperity, you are part of that plot. It does not matter if you know or you dont. In a democracy, you need to find out infromation yourself and seek guidance and investigate. If you don't, then you accept ignorance and your vote becomes crippling. It does not matter if you are a teacher or ballet dancer; once you cast that vote in an election you are part of the system. This is also why history will not be forgiving to these developed "civilizations."
This is also why I have explained to my friends from Egypt and other "developing" nations that we cannot rely on anyone anymore. We have to rely on ourselves and ourselves only. We have to build a nation. And we will suffer in doing so. it will be a long process. People will die. Others will suffer. However, there is no other way. Selfishness is part of human nature. and to get your rights back you need to get them yourself. You need to be loud, persistent and clear. We need to stop being side tracked in some secondary issues and focus on the big picture: building a nation. History is full of examples on how the poor and oppressed has risen up against the oppressor. Victory belongs to those who believe in it the most, believe in it the longest. We are going to believe.